Book Club Reading Lists - 2005-2006

Philip Roth's The Plot Against America
Imagine an America, 1941-42, where anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh, as president, is prepared to negotiate with Hitler : menacing years for a Jewish family in New Jersey.
Reader's Guide
Reading Group guide
Excerpt from chapter 1

Aharon Appelfeld's The Conversion: A Novel
A Jew in Hapsburg, Austria, converts from Judaism to Catholicism to advance his career, but pays a steep price for this assimilation.

Mary Antin's The Promised Land
Memoir of a young Jewish woman who left Eastern Europe for Boston in the early 20th century and became a successful author and advocate for immigrant rights.
Book Clubs guide
The entire text (plus scans of the photos)

Rachel Seiffert's The Dark Room: A Novel
Short listed for the Booker Prize, these three novellas deal with the issue of war-guilt and the impact of W.W.II in Germany.
Book Clubs guide
Vintage - Questions for Discussion

Thane Rosenbaum's The Golems of Gotham
Enchanting novel of a teenage girl who plays virtuoso klezmer violin on Manhattan's west side and who communes with the ghosts of her grandparents, Primo Levi and Jerzy Kosinski.
Reading Group Guide

David Bezmozgis's Natasha and Other Stories

Toronto is the setting for the hopes and dreams of the Russian Jewish families who populate the stories in this award winning debut collection.

Picador Reading Group Guide (Acrobat format)

Union for Reform Judaism Guide

Appelfeld, Aharon. The Story of a Life. Translated from the Hebrew by Aloma Halter. New York: Schocken Books, 2004. ISBN: 0805241787. $23.00.
This poignant memoir covers the author's childhood as an orphan during the Holocaust, his move to Palestine as a teen and his adult years as one of Israel's most acclaimed authors. (nonfiction)

Baxter, Charles. Saul and Patsy. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003. ISBN: 0375410295. $24.00.
A young married couple settles down in a small Michigan town where Saul embarks on a teaching career, but their lives are thrown off course when one of his students kills himself in their yard. (fiction)

Edghill, India. Wisdom's Daughter. York: St. Martin's Press, 2004. ISBN: 0312289375. $24.95.
This is a vivid and richly textured rendition of the biblical tale of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Told in a tapestry of voices that ring with authenticity, Wisdom's Daughter profoundly reveals the deep ties among women in a patriarchal world. (fiction)

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. ISBN: 0618329706. $24.95.
Follow nine-year-old Oskar Schell as he encounters a number of interesting characters in his search for information about his father, who died in the World Trade Center, and tries to find the lock that fits the mysterious key his father left. (fiction)

Goldsmith, Martin. The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany. New York: J. Wiley & Sons, 2000. ISBN: 0471078646. $24.95.
Chronicles the true story of two Jewish musicians who struggled against impossible odds to perform in Nazi Germany and found themselves falling in love with each other. (nonfiction)

Ochs, Vanessa. Sarah Laughed: Modern Lessons From the Wisdom and Stories of Biblical Women. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. ISBN: 007140290X. $24.95.
A powerful retelling of the stories of Old Testament matriarchs; each one becomes a wellspring of insights that can empower modern Jewish women to think and act differently. (nonfiction)

Oz, Amos. A Tale of Love and Darkness. Translated from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange. Orlando: Harcourt, 2004. ISBN: 0151008787. $26.00.
A beautiful memoir that captures the history of Israel as it focuses on the life of this noted author. (nonfiction)

Ozick, Cynthia. Heir to the Glimmering World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. ISBN: 0618470492. $24.00.
With her imaginative prose and vivid imagery, Ozick paints a fascinating portrait of an impoverished, dysfunctional, depression-era German refugee family living in New York. (fiction)

Reiss, Tom. The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life. New York: Random House, 2005. ISBN: 1400062659. $25.95.
Reiss pieces together the life story of Lev Nussimbaum, born to a wealthy Jewish family in Russia, who transformed himself into a Muslim priest and became best-selling author Kurban Said. (nonfiction)

Rosen, Jonathan. Joy Comes in the Morning. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004. ISBN: 0374180261. $25.00.
This novel explores the complex life of Deborah Green as she attempts to balance her identities as a woman, a rabbi and a Jew—when she becomes involved with the son of a Holocaust survivor. (fiction)

Russell, Mary Doria. A Thread of Grace. New York: Random House, 2005. ISBN: 0375501843. $25.95.
This riveting WWII saga follows a group of Jews and Italian resistance fighter during the war's final years. The action moves swiftly, with impressive authority, jostling dialogue, vibrant personalities and meticulous, unexpected historical detail. (fiction)

Said, Kurban. Ali and Nino. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1996. ISBN: 0879516682. $24.95.
Ali Khan's love affair with a beautiful Christian girl is threatened by the events of WWI and the Russian Revolution. A saga of war and love, this is at heart a rousing, old-fashioned, tear-jerking love story. (fiction)

Stille, Alexander. Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Facism. New York: Summit Books, 1991. ISBN: 0312421532. $15.00.
Family stories told in their own words and interwoven with the author's clear and dispassionate historical narrative. This book is thoroughly researched and documented, but it is the distinctive and surprisingly calm voices of the families that provide a harrowing and deeply moving oral history. (nonfiction)

Yehoshua, A.B. The Liberated Bride. Translated from the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin. Orlando: Harcourt, 2003. ISBN: 0151006539. $27.00.
Yochanan Rivlin, a professor at Haifa University, tries to come to terms with the Algerian civil war of the 1990s and the mystery of his son's divorce. In this comedy of manners, at once deeply serious and highly entertaining, Yehoshua brilliantly portrays characters from disparate sectors of Israeli life, united above all by a very human desire for, and fear of, the truth in politics and life. (fiction)

Duffy, Peter. The Bielski Brothers. $17.13 (10.17 pb); NY: HarperCollins, 2003; 0066210747
In 1941, three brothers witnessed their parents and two other siblings being led away to their eventual murders. Instead of running or giving in to despair, the brothers fought back, waging a guerrilla war of wits against the Nazis as they convinced other Jews to join their ranks.

Kertzer, David. Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. $10.20; NY: Vintage Books, 1997; 0679768173 (pb)
In 1857, Edgardo Mortara, a 6-year-old seriously ill Jewish boy, was secretly baptized by the Mortara's Catholic servant. Because it was against the law for baptized Christians to be raised by Jews, he was taken from his parents' home in Bologna, Italy, by agents of the Papal Inquisition. Secular Italians did not agree, and thus was set in motion a series of reforms that ended the Church's temporal power in Italy and forged the creation of a liberal, near-democratic state.

Kessel, Barbara. Suddenly Jewish. $13.57; Hanover: University Press of New England, 2000; 1584650389
Stimulated by Madeline Albright's well-publicized 1997 discovery that her parents were Jewish, Kessel, a freelance writer, decided to explore the question of "hidden roots." She placed an inquiry in the New York Times Book Review and on the Internet "seeking people raised as non-Jews who discovered they are of Jewish descent." This book is based on her interviews by mail, by telephone, or in person with 166 individuals. According to Kessel, all of the interviewees are bound together by a basic human need to determine their identity.

Lansky, Aaron. Outwitting History. $15.72; Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004; 1565124294
In his first book, Lansky describes his adventures as president and founder of the National Yiddish Book Center. To Lansky, Yiddish literature represented an important piece of Jewish cultural history, a link to the past and a memory of a generation lost to the Holocaust. Lansky's account of salvaging books is both hilarious and moving.

Leegant, Joan. An Hour in Paradise. $23.95 (11.16 pb); NY: Norton, 2003; 039305439X
Joan Leegant's collection takes its title from the Yiddish proverb "Even an hour in Paradise is worthwhile." In settings from Jerusalem to Queens, from Hollywood's outskirts to Sarasota, Florida, the characters in this collection are drawn to the seductions of religion, soldiering on in search of divine and human connection.

Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America. $10.17; NY: Vintage, 2005; 1400079497 (pb)
In The Plot Against America, Roth imagines what would have happened had Charles Lindbergh, American hero and Nazi sympathizer, defeated FDR in the 1940 presidential election.

Sebald, WB. Austerlitz. $11.16; NY: Random House, 2001. 0375504834 (pb)
A small child when he comes to England on a Kindertransport in the summer of 1939, Jacques Austerlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh Methodist minister and his wife who raise him. When he is a much older man, fleeting memories return to him, and obeying an instinct he only dimly understands, he follows their trail back to the world he left behind a half century before.

Wiesel, Elie. The Judges. $10.40; NY: Knopf, 2002; 0375409092 (pb)
A plane en route from New York to Tel Aviv is forced down by bad weather. A nearby house provides refuge for five of its passengers. Their host—an enigmatic and disquieting man who calls himself simply the Judge—begins to interrogate them, forcing them to face the truth and meaning of their lives. Soon he announces that one of them—the least worthy—will die.

Wilson, Jonathan. A Palestine Affair. $23 (10.40 pb); NY: Pantheon, 2003. 0375422099
This novel of political intrigue and romance is set in 1924 in Palestine under the British mandate. At the opening of the novel, a dying man staggers into the home of Mark Bloomberg, who works for a Zionist organization. The man is dressed as an Arab but is actually an Orthodox Jew, Jacob De Groot, a thorn in the side of the Zionists for his agitation against the formation of a Jewish state.

Haddon, Mark.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. NY, Random House, 2003, ISBN 14400032717 $ 12.95
Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically gifted, autistic boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

Hosseini, Khaled.The Kite Runner. NY, Penguin Group, 2003 ISBN 1-57322-245-3 $ 14.00
Powerful first novel set in Afghanistan tells of two boys, of friendship and betrayal, of attempting to bridge seemingly unbridgeable social chasms, of cruelty, coldness and love between father and son in a land at war.

Ozick, Cynthia. Heir to the Glimmering World. Houghton, Mifflin, 2005? $13.00
Filled with the grand sweeps of a 19th-century novel and a tragic sense of 20th century history, this novel is set in the Bronx in the mid-thirties, which is the author's stomping ground, where she grew up. It is described as a "vivid, fully satisfying novel, Ozick's best work of fiction so far."

Rosenthal, Donna. The Israelis. Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land. NY, Free Press, 2003 ISBN 0-684-86973-X $15.00
A rich, colorful tapestry of the variety of people that make up "The Israelis." This is not about politics, it is an overview of a population that has come from many lands, speaking various languages and bringing with them their culture, their music, their prejudices their "baggage."

Roth, Philip.The Plot Against America. 2005 $14.95
What if … What might have happened if Charles Lindbergh, fearless flying ace and American hero, but also an isolationist and Nazi sympathizer, would have won the presidency instead of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some claim this is Philip Roth's best work yet.

Fall Into Reading
Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides 680 p. / 2003
Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser 400 p. / 2001
The Heart of the Country by Fay Weldon 208 p. / 1937
The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker 288 p. / 1996
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison 362 p. / 1977

Warm Winter Reading Groups
House of Mirth by Edith Wharton 368 p. / 1905
The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway 256 p. / 1989
Saturday by Ian McEwan 304 p. / 2005
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman 340 p. / 1998
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston 240 p. / 1937

Erlich, Elizabeth. Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir. New York: Penguin Books, 1997. ISBN: Hardcover - 0670869082, $24.95, Paperback -014026759X, $15.00.
Miriam's Kitchen blends recipes and food reminiscences with family narratives and observations about the author's personal evolution as a Jew.

Feldman, Ellen. The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank: A Novel. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005. ISBN: Hardcover - 0393059448, $23.95.
Anne Frank and Peter van Pels shared an awkward first love in the Amsterdam annex where they lived in hiding. Feldman pens a deeply affecting, unsettling look into the soul of a man whose attempts to bury his past cannot prevent it from seeping into his present life.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. New York: Bantam Books, 1997. ISBN: Hardcover - 035473788, $29.95, Paperback - 0553577123, $5.99.
The startling new edition of Dutch Jewish teenager Anne Frank's classic diary, written in an Amsterdam warehouse, where for two years she hid from the Nazis with her family and friends, contains approximately 30% more material than the original 1947 edition, and reveals a new depth to Anne's dreams, irritations, hardships, and passions.

Goodman, Allegra. Kaaterskill Falls. New York: Dial Press , 1999. ISBN: Hardcover - 0385323891, $23.95, Paperback - 0385323905, $23.95.
The stories of three Orthodox Jewish families, each of whom is tugged between religious tradition and the secular world are intertwined. The story takes place in the upstate New York town of Kaaterskill, summer Mecca for the tightly knit Kirshner sect, where wife and mother Elizabeth Shulman pictures her community as an island both joined and separated from the outside world. Fascinated with what lies on the spiritual mainland, she hides behind the reassuring rhythms of religious observance, though she's inspired with a "desire, as intense as prayer," to create something all her own.

Horn, Dara. In the Image: A Novel. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002. ISBN: Hardcover - 0393325261, $24.95, Paperback - 0393325261, $13.95.
An elderly Jewish refugee in a New Jersey suburb crosses paths with his granddaughter's friend and continues by moving forward through her life and backward through his, revealing the unexpected links between his family's past and her family's future.

King, Alan. Matzo Balls for Breakfast and Other Memories of Growing Up Jewish. New York: Free Press, 2005. ISBN: Hardcover - 0743260732, $24.00, Paperback - 0743260740, $14.00.
Combining warmhearted humor with a prideful nostalgia, this collection of over 75 reminiscences by Jews in the arts, politics, religion and sports discuss life in the Jewish family and neighborhood, being a Jew in a non-Jewish world, Jewish holidays, and discovering the essence of being Jewish.

Potok, Chaim. Old Men at Midnight. New York: Ballentine Books, 2002. ISBN: Hardcover - 0375410716, $23.00, Paperback -0345439988, $14.95.
Three novellas are linked by a single character, Ilana Davita Dinn, whose life experiences carry us from the Holocaust to the Kremlin's doctor's plot to the quieter terrors of old age.

Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. ISBN: Hardcover - 0618509283, $26.00, Paperback - 1400079497, $14.95.
When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America.

Shteyngart, Gary. The Russian Debutante's Handbook. New York: Riverhead Books, 2003. ISBN: Harccover - 1573222135, $24.95, Paperback - 1573229881, $14.00.
A passive character, Vladimir Girshkin, becomes briefly proactive with disastrous results as he avoids his suburban parents and their desire that he pursue success, and becomes an expatriate in a trendy European city; somewhat of a mobster, he generally has a good time.

Telushkin, Joseph. The Unorthodox Murder of Rabbi Wahl. New Milford, CT: The Toby Press, 2004. ISBN: Paperback - 1592641075, $9.95.

A feminist rabbi is run down by a car after a spirited discussion at a Sunday evening radio talk show. The "detective," Daniel Winter, a rabbi who gives brief explanations of Jewish law and its reasoning, is particularly upset with this woman when he leaves the show, but he ends up getting involved in the investigation.

(prices are in Canadian funds)

Cohen, Matt. Nadine. Toronto: Viking Press, 1986. ISBN 0670810835.

Kattan, Naim. Farewell, Babylon: Coming of Age in Jewish Baghdad. Vancouver: Raincoast, 2005 (1975). ISBN 1551927993 (pbk). $22.95.

Graham, Gwethalyn. Earth and High Heaven. Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2003 (1944). ISBN 1896951619 (pbk). $19.95.

Nattel, Lilian. The Singing Fire. Toronto: Knopf, 2004. ISBN 067697600X. $34.95.

Prose, Francine. A Changed Man. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0060196742. $34.95.

Chabon, Michael. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection. New York: HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN 006076340X. $22.75.

Beer, Edith Hahn. The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust. NY: Harper Perennial, 2000. ISBN: 068817776X. $14.00.
Edith recounts her incredible life as a bright, sassy law student in pre-WWII Vienna who has to go underground and emerges with a Christian persona as Grete Denner. She marries a Nazi officer in Germany, later becomes a judge in the post-war period and spends the rest of her life in England and Israel. There is an A&E video/DVD of her life available as well as an award winning audiotape of the book.

Cohen, Paula Marantz. Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004. ISBN: 0312324987. $23.95.
Carla Goodman is planning her daughter's bat mitzvah while her fifth grade son is acting out in school, her husband's medical practice is not going well and her widowed mother thinks she is Shakespeare's Dark Lady. Another humorous tale with a tie in to the classics by the author of Jane Austen in Boca.

Duffy, Peter. The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied The Nazis, Built a Village In The Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004. ISBN: 0060935537. $14.95.
The story of Tuvia, Zus and Asael Bielski, who evaded the Nazis by building a community in their Belarus forest and saved other Jews from certain death, is told in this documentary of courage and survival.

Horn, Dara. In The Image. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002. ISBN: 0393051064. $24.95.
A debut novel that follows the life of Leora as she tries to cope with the death of her best friend while in high school, and as she grows into adulthood while in college and pursuing a career. Throughout this time there is intermittent contact with her friend's grandfather, William Landsmann, who has an immense collection of photographs.

Horn, Shifra. Four Mothers. New York: Picador, 2000. ISBN: 0312263236. $14.00.
Translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu, and within the backdrop of 100 years of Jerusalem history, Horn relates the stories of Sara, Pnina-Mazel, Geula, and Amal, four generations of a family of women haunted by a "curse."

King, Ruchama. Seven Blessings. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2004. ISBN: 0312309163. $12.95.
In a novel set in modern day Jerusalem, King provides insights into the lives of contemporary matchmakers and focuses on Beth, one of the women who wants to get married. Colorful characters come to life in the orthodox areas of the city.

Kirshenbaum, Binnie. An Almost Perfect Moment. New York: Ecco, 2004. ISBN: 006050868. $23.95.
Miriam, her mah-jongg playing friends known as The Girls, Valentine, her daughter, and two schoolteachers are portrayed in this sometimes funny, ultimately tragic story of a single mother in the Canarsie section of 1970s Brooklyn, trying to cope with loneliness and bizarre twists of fate.

Krich, Rochelle. Blues in the Night. New York: Ballantine, 2002. ISBN: 0345449711. $6.99.
Molly Blume, Krich's new super sleuth, is a wisecracking, somewhat plump crime writer who investigates the death of a woman in the canyons of suburban Los Angeles. Light, humorous, and rich in detail about the modern orthodox community.

Mirvis, Tova. The Ladies Auxiliary. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. ISBN: 0393048144. $23.95.
Bathsheba, a free-spirited convert and a newcomer to town, affects the lives of the women and youth of the orthodox community in Memphis, TN in more ways than she or they ever would have expected.

Mirvis, Tova. The Outside World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. ISBN: 1400041619. $24.00.
Another novel of modern orthodox life by Tova Mirvis, the story tells of a young couple, Tzippy and Bryan, from the New York/New Jersey area as they prepare for marriage and beyond.

Ragen, Naomi. The Covenant. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004. ISBN: 0312291191. $24.95.
A covenant to stand by one another is made by four Auschwitz survivors. Years later they band together from various parts of the world to try to save Jonathan Margulies and his daughter, kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists. Gripping, as Ragen unfolds many of the complex issues facing the Middle East today.

Solomon, Nina. Single Wife. New York: NAL, 2004. ISBN: 0451212118. $14.00.
Grace Brookman seems to have it all as the wife of a well-known journalist and as the pampered daughter of loving parents in affluent sections of New York City. When her husband Laz leaves without a note for an extended period of time, she makes an interesting adjustment.

Hakakian, Roya. Journey from the Land of No. New York: Crown, 2004. ISBN: 1400046114. $23.00
An Iranian American poet recounts her life as a daughter of Jewish parents growing up in Tehran, during which she witnessed the impact of the Ayatollah Khomeini's return to the nation and contemplated political asylum.

Kohn, Rebecca. The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther. New York: Rugged Land, 2004. ISBN: 159071024X. $23.95
A retelling of the life of the Jewish heroine follows the future queen from her youth as an orphan, her selection as the wife of a powerful Persian king, and the sacrifices she makes in order to save her people from annihilation.

Mirvis, Tova. Outside World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. ISBN: 1400041619. $24.00
Follows the courtship and marriage of Bryan and Tzippy, the former of whom astonishes his family by rejecting their liberal way of life in favor of a strict Orthodox lifestyle, and the latter, who longs to escape the expectations of religious structure and familial obligation.

Raphael, Lev. The German Money. Wellfleet, Mass.: Leapfrog Press; St. Paul, Minn.: Distributed in the United States by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, 2003. ISBN: 096795200X. $14.95
Paul left New York, his girlfriend, his siblings, and his mother, a Holocaust survivor. After her mysterious death, Paul, the least favorite son, is left with most of their inheritance from the "German Money" a sum of a million dollars. The children are faced with questions about their mother's death and the "German Money".

Silva, Daniel. Prince of Fire. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2005. ISBN: 0399152431. $25.95
Recalled to service in Israel after terrorists steal secrets about his past, art restorer and sometime spy Gabriel Allon finds himself stalking an elusive master terrorist in a deadly cat-and-mouse game.

Saul Bellow. The Adventures of Augie March / Saul Bellow. NY: Viking, 2003.
Follows the life of a Jewish boy growing up in Chicago during the Great Depression.

Joshua Braff. The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green: A Novel / Joshua Braff. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004.
Novel about a Jewish family and their teenage son in 1970's New Jersey.

Linda Grant. When I lived In Modern Times / Linda Grant. N.Y: Dutton, 2000.
Novel about the life of a 20 year old European woman who moves to Eretz Yisrael after World War II.

Nicole Krauss. The History of love: A Novel / Nicole Krauss. NY: W W Norton, 2005.
Novel set in present day New York about a Holocaust survivor who wrote a book many years earlier not knowing that it was published.

Adam Langer. Crossing California: A Novel / Adam Langer. NY: Riverhead, 2004.
Follows the lives of three Jewish families living in Chicago from 1979-1981.

Naomi Ragen. The Covenant: A Novel / Naomi Ragen. NY: St. Martin's Press, 2004.
Novel set in Israel about a pregnant woman who copes with the fact that her husband might have been killed by terrorists.

Jonathan Rosen. Joy Comes in the Morning: A Novel / Jonathan Rosen. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.
Novel about a woman rabbi who, after meeting an older man who has attempted suicide, starts to question Judaism.

Philip Roth. The Plot against America / Philip Roth. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.

Fictional account of what life would have been like if Charles Lindbergh had become president in 1940.

Flavius Josephus: Eyewitness to Rome's First Century Conquest of Judea, by Hadas Lebel. Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN: 0743217969. PPB $17.95.
Josephus' first-century live-from-the-scene accounts of Rome's wars against Judaea provided scholars with source material, while his allusions to Jesus made him important to Christians. Within the Jewish community, Josephus motives and actions made him controversial: was this Jew, who wrote so dramatically of the Masada tragedy and the destruction of Jerusalem, a traitor because he surrendered to the Romans and was honored by Vespasian and Titus? Hadas Lebel explores Josephus's background and influences to address this question.

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, by Elaine Pagels. Vintage, 2004. ISBN: 0375703160. PPB $13.00.
A textual battle between The Gospel of Thomas (rediscovered in Egypt in 1945) and New Testament Gospel of John pits two competing interpretations of Jesus and "God the Father" against each other. Pagels shows how Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon and others used John to define orthodoxy during the second and third centuries, driving Thomas' teachings out of the Christian Bible and underground until a rediscovery in Egypt in the Twentieth Century.

Rashi's Daughters, Book 1: Joheved, by Maggie Anton. Banot Press, 2005. ISBN: 0976305054. PPB $ 15.95.
Set in 1068 in Medieval France, Rashi's Daughters is a historical novel about learning, faith, and love. Winemaker and Talmud scholar Rashi dares to teach the Talmud to his three daughters when women were forbidden an education. As the eldest finds her mind and spirit awakened, she knows she must keep her knowledge hidden, even from her husband; but finally the choices she makes during crisis fractures the line between love, image, and selfhood.

Maimonides: A Spiritual Biography
, by Ilil Arbel. Crossroad, 2001. ISBN: 0824523598. Only in HC $19.95.
A physician caring for body as well as the soul, Maimonides was one of the brightest intellects in the Middle Ages, who pursued his sacred and secular studies in spite of anti-Semitic harassment and poverty, until he completed an intellectual synthesis that affected the entire Mediterranean world—Jewish, Arab, and Christian.

The Dreyfus Affair: "J'accuse" and Other Writings, by Emile Zola, trans. by Eleanor Levieux. Yale Univ. Press, 1998. ISBN: 0300073674. PPB $20.00.
Written in defense of the court-martialed French soldier Alfred Dreyfus, Zola's essay "J'accuse!" is one of the most famous pieces of rhetorical journalism ever published. This volume collects all of Zola's writings on the Dreyfus Affair, balancing Zola's fury at injustice with unrelenting, fiercely logical assaults on Dreyfus's accusers, and sorrowful letters home. A documentation of one man's courageous public efforts to clear another.

Thread of Grace, by Mary Dora Russell. Ballantine, 2005. ISBN: 0449004139. PPB $14.95.
Italian citizens saved more than 43,000 Jews during the last months the war. But when Italy breaks with Germany in 1943 and leaves southern France, thousands of Jews flee across the mountains in search of safety. The German occupation of Italy and its deadly threat becomes the hub of this well-researched and compelling novel.

The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, Lawrence Epstein. Public Affairs, 2002. ISBN: 1586481622. PPB $15.00.
Recounts the jokes, routines, and anecdotes that made the rhythms of Jewish comedy into an American idiom. Offers a deep and subtle understanding of how Jewish culture and American openness gave birth to a new style of entertainment.

A Tale of Love and Darkness, by Amos Oz. Harvest, 2005. ISBN: 015603252X. PPB $16.00.
In a memoir as lyric as his fiction, this bedazzling writer unfurls the complex story of his fascinating family history, one that encompasses the heartbreaks of the Diaspora and the Holocaust, and brings to vivid life the violence, fury, fear, determination, and sorrow that brought Israel into being, and that set in motion the intractable conflicts that still rage today.

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth. Vintage, 2005. ISBN: 1400079497. PPB$14.95.

In this alternative history, aviation hero Charles Lindbergh is nominated for president in 1940 on peace-with-Hitler platform and wins handily over FDR. A large segment of American Jewry is frightened that Lindbergh's friendship with der fuhrer could include acceptance or even adoption of the dictator's anti-Semitic policies. A portrait of the conflicted American soul during wartime.

(Go to and click on "Programs & Services," then "Media Center & Libraries," and then "Recommended Reading" to view a list of all book club selections from 1997)

Feldman, Ellen. The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank. New York: Norton, 2005. ISBN: 0393059448. $23.95
A fictionalized account of the post-war life of Peter, who hid in the secret annex with Anne Frank and her family, follows his survival of the Holocaust, his relocation to America, and his memories upon the publication of Anne's diary.

Freedman, Samuel. Who She Was: My Search For My Mother's Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN: 0743227352. $25.00
Documents the author's efforts to learn about his mother's life in the years after her death, a personal quest during which he rediscovered the Jewish immigrant Bronx of the 1930's and 1940's and his grandparent's impact on his mother's dreams to flee her home and acquire an education.

Lansky, Aaron. Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004. ISBN: 1565125134. $13.95
The author explains how he founded the National Yiddish Book Center, and describes the worldwide effort he currently leads to collect unwanted Yiddish books and save the Yiddish language from extinction.

Lebrecht, Norman. The Song of Names. New York: Anchor Books, 2004. ISBN: 1400034892. $14.00
The close friendship between Martin Simmonds and violin prodigy Dovidl Rappoport, two Jewish boys living in London between the 1930s and the end of World War II, is threatened by the unexpected disappearance of Dovidl on the eve of his debut performance.

Kohn, Rebecca. The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther. New York: Rugged Land, 2004. ISBN: 0143035339. $14.00
A retelling of the life of the Jewish heroine follows the future queen from her youth as an orphan, her selection as the wife of a powerful Persian king, and the sacrifices she makes in order to save her people from annihilation.

Mirvis, Tova. The Outside World. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. ISBN: 1400075289. $13.00
Follows the courtship and marriage of Bryan and Tzippy—Bryan astonishes his family by rejecting their way of life in favor of a strict Orthodox lifestyle while Tzippy longs to escape the expectations of familial obligation. By the author of the best-selling Ladies Auxiliary.

Nattel, Lilian. The Singing Fire. New York: Scribner, 2004. ISBN: 0743249674. $15.00
Arriving in the bustling laneways of London's Jewish ghetto, Nehama escapes a life of prostitution and assists pregnant fellow runaway Emilia, whose daughter becomes a nexus in the lives of both women as they struggle to find meaning in their lives.

Traig, Jennifer. Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood. New York: Little, Brown, 2004. ISBN: 031601074X. $14.95
A woman who suffered from an undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder in her childhood recounts how her overzealous drive for perfection and incessant hand-washing rituals compromised her daily life and strained her relationship with her good-natured parents.

(Note: The Imagine Book Club is specifically geared towards young adults in their 20's, 30's, and 40's.)

Felder, Leonard. When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005. ISBN: 1594862273. $14.95
Do you have a monster-in-law? Leonard Felder gives examples, strategies, and constructive ways to deal with intrusive, hurtful, selfish, annoying, obnoxious or difficult relatives to bring harmony to your relationships. (included dinner and presentation with the author)

Feldman, Ellen. The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank. New York: Norton, 2005. ISBN: 0393059448. $23.95
A fictionalized account of the post-war life of Peter, who hid in the secret annex with Anne Frank and her family, follows his survival of the Holocaust, his relocation to America, and his memories upon the publication of Anne's diary.

Goldstein, Jan. All That Matters. New York: Hyperion, 2004. ISBN: 1401307523. $12.95

Jennifer Stempler thinks she has nothing left to lose—her boyfriend dumped her, her mother is dead, her father has a new family that does not include her—but when she tries to end it all with a lethal combination of tequila and Xanax, she realizes there is a force out there not yet willing to let Jennifer self destruct—her Nana, Gabby Zuckerman.

Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Israel. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2003. 0-471-46502-X. $19.95.
Dershowitz outlines the reasons why Israel deserves to live with peace and security.

Ozick, Cynthia. Heir to the Glimmering World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 0-618470492. $24.00.
Ozick paints a fascinating picture of an impoverished, dysfunctional, depression-era German refugee family in New York.

Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 0-618-50928-3. $26.00
There is much suspense in Roth's eerily plausible world, where anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh has been elected president.

Kohn, Rebecca. The Gilded Chamber. New York: Rugged Land, 2004. 1-29071024-X. $23.95
Kohn adheres closely to the Biblical story of Esther, adding her own well-researched descriptions of palace life and customs. In the exotic and treacherous world of the harem, Esther rises from shy orphan to her role of champion of the Jewish people.

Bellow, Saul. The Adventures of Augie March. New York: Penguin,1999.0-140189416. $15.00.
One of America's best novelist's story of a man in pursuit of the American dream, who comes to the realization that "the riches which life has to offer lie in the secrets of the heart's core."

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Everything is Illuminated. N.Y: Houghton Mifflin 2001. 0618173870. $24.00.

This debut novel rocketed the 24-year-old author to fame as he wrote of a protagonist with the same name trying to locate the woman who might have saved his grandfather from the Nazis, with the help of Alexi, a Ukrainian translator who speaks in butchered English.

The English Assassin, Daniel Silva. New York: Signet Books, 2003. ISBN: 0451208188. $7.99
Our choice for a "beach book": this thriller is a New York Times bestseller about a reluctant Israeli spy/art restorer in a very successful series that is still being written by its American author. If you enjoy this archetypal summer read, you can pursue the character through five other titles.

Call It Sleep, Henry Roth. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992. ISBN: 0374522928. $16.00
No survey of twentieth century fiction would be complete without reading this novel, published in 1934. It was warmly received by the critics but ignored by the public, selling just a few thousand copies. Thirty years later, its reissue was the first paperback ever featured on the front page of The New York Times Book Review as the great undiscovered novel of the twentieth century. It has been in print ever since. It eloquently tells the story of David Schearl and his family, poor immigrants in the tenements of New York. It's touching portrait of their struggle, their yearnings, and the obstacles they face.

Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir, Elizabeth Ehrlich. New York: Penguin, 1998. ISBN 014026759X. $22.00
This book, intermittently interrupted by recipes, is a secular Jewess' journey to greater observance as she sat in the kitchens of the most influential women in her life. This evening will be especially fun because the Mashgiach will be opening the kitchen to us. We will enjoy a recipe from the book as we consider food, culture, and tradition.

Bee Season, Myla Goldberg. New York: Anchor Books, 2001. ISBN: 0385498802. $13.00
"Read the Book! See the Movie!" This bestselling novel is about a young girl transformed through an unexpected talent for spelling. On September 30th, Fox Searchlight Pictures will be releasing the film version of this book - but with some important changes. The book's translation into film for a mass market will present some interesting issues. On its own merits, the film has generated a great deal of buzz and it has been said that its release date was postponed until the "Oscar Season."

Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books, Aaron Lansky. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 2005. ISBN: 1565125134. $13.95
This title is an excellent follow-up to last year's selection Yiddish: A Nation of Words. Single-handedly, Aaron Lansky has rescued over one million books to create the Yiddish Book Center ( His adventures are alternately moving and hilarious as he tracks down the next addition to his collection.

Mr. Mani, A.B. Yehoshua. New York: Harvest Books, 1993. ISBN: 0156627698. $14.00
As one of the most highly regarded of contemporary Israeli authors today, Yehoshua challenges the reader in this narrative by telling a multi-generational story through five conversations, each one going back further and further into the story of Mr. Mani's family until the readers uncovers the root of the family's long, dark struggle. Named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, chosen as one of the 50 Best Books of 1992 by Publishers Weekly, awarded the National Jewish Book Award and the first Israeli Literature Prize.

The Search for God at Harvard, Ari L. Goldman. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992. ISBN: 0345377060. $12.95
Goldman, the religion correspondent of The New York Times, took a sabbatical in 1985 to enroll in the Harvard Divinity School. Studying side-by-side with other religion professionals, Goldman uses his reporter's skill to relate a different perspective on the practice of religion and his own spiritual life. The book was so significant that a "rebuttal" was written: Finding God at Harvard by Kelly Monroe.

The Chosen, Chaim Potok. New York: Fawcett, 1987. ISBN: 0449213447. $6.95.
The Outside World, Tova Mirvis. New York: Vintage, 2005. ISBN: 1400075289. $13.00

With the extended break in our schedule for Passover, we will double up this month and compare two books that were written nearly forty years apart and yet deals with many of the same issues: each book tells of two families dealing with life and religion in the modern world, told from the point of view of their children. The similarities and differences between the generations play out in both of these very readable books as they confront modernity and traditional, spirituality and the real world, independence and community.

GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation, Deborah Dash Moore. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2004. ISBN: 0674015096. $25.95
During the Second World War, the young Jews who joined the armed forces were able to participate with a measure of equality perhaps unknown in history. Over a half-million Jewish men and women served. This thoughtful history, focusing on the lives of fifteen young men, brings into sharp relief the challenges and rewards of service.

(Go to to view all book club selections from 1993)

Abraham, Pearl. The Seventh Beggar. Riverhead Trade, 2005 (2005). ISBN: 1594481555. $15.00
The complex tale of a young man's obsession with the legendary nineteenth-century Chasidic master, Nachman of Bratslav-kabbalist and storyteller.

Agnon, S.Y. A Simple Story. Syracuse University Press, 2000 (1987). ISBN: 0815606184. $19.95
An orphan who goes to live with her relatives and falls in love, but a matchmaker arranges a marriage to a differet man, a wealthy farmer ... and the couple lives happily ever after.

Ferber, Edna. Fanny Herself. Wildside Press, 2004 (1917). ISBN: 0809594226. $19.95
The fictionalized semiautobiographical story of Edna Ferber, a Jewish girl growing up in the Midwest.

Kushner, Tony. Angels in America. Theatre Communications Group, 2003 (1995). ISBN: 1559362316. $15.95
Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, the two parts of this play, explore morality, homosexuality, politics and life in America using fantasy, humor and reality.

Ozick, Cynthia. Heir to the Glimmering World. Mariner Books, 2005 (2004). ISBN: 0618618805. $13.00
In a novel brimming with intriguing characters, an orphan takes a job with a family and becomes a research assistant to the father, a professor stubbornly engaged in German and Hebrew arcana; a nurse to his oft-deranged, sequestered wife; and nanny to their five children.

Rosen, Jonathan. Joy Comes in the Morning. Picador, 2005 (2004). ISBN: 0312424272 $14.00
The identity struggles encountered by a woman rabbi and her relationship with a religious skeptic science writer.

Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America. Vintage, 2005 (2004). ISBN: 1400079497 $14.95
A fantasy on what America would have been like if Charles A. Lindbergh would have defeated FDR for the presidency in 1940.

Stollman, Aryeh Lev. The Far Euphrates. Riverhead Trade, 1998 (1997). ISBN: 1573226971 $14.00
A coming-of-age story about the lonely son of Holocaust survivors living in a home of religious intellect, pain and secrecy.

Wiesel, Elie. The Testament. Schocken, 1999 (1981). ISBN: 0805211152 $16.00

A fictionalized account of one of the poets executed in Stalin's 1952 purge of Russia's greatest Jewish writers.